Less Hassle and Still Charitable: Why Projects Choose Fiscal Sponsorship

August 21, 2019

Fiscal_sponsorshipOne of the big trends we've noticed in both philanthropy and international development is increasing interest in funding different and new types of organizations. For many foundations, traditional public charities are not their first choice for investment. Instead, they are turning to international networks and partnerships that bring together diverse stakeholders, innovation platforms, funder collaboratives and re-granting funds, social enterprises, and short-term projects with a handful of staff.

As a result of this, we’re seeing many funders and project leaders consider the fiscal sponsorship model, which typically entails a project or small startup being "sponsored" by a larger tax-exempt organization with an aligned mission. The larger organization handles governance, financial management, and administration for the project it has agreed to sponsor, while the project (in many cases) pursues an independent strategy with semi-autonomous staff and its own advisors.

Since the Transparency and Accountability Initiative (TAI) transitioned to a U.S.-based fiscal sponsor in 2016, we have been repeatedly asked for advice by both project leaders and program officers. We’ve also watched as the fiscal sponsorship sector has grown. In the international development field, we’re even seeing the demand for fiscal sponsorship expand to other countries, most of which do not have legal frameworks in place to accommodate such a model.

Here in the U.S., the law currently supports a variety of models. In the model used by TAI, the sponsoring organization assumes responsibility for all tax filings, financial reporting, and legal compliance, including ensuring the charitable mission and activities of the project it is sponsoring. Typically the project is expected to contribute to the sponsoring organization’s overhead, abide by its policies, and report to its management and board. The exact terms of the arrangement usually are spelled out in a memorandum of understanding (MOU). The MOU often allows the project or startup to have its own steering committee to direct its strategy.

We are frequently asked about fiscal sponsorship and wanted to share some of the things you should consider before taking the plunge. (Nonprofit leaders may also want to consider how some of these factors are shaping organizational structures in their own fields.) Based on our own experience and what we’ve heard again and again from other projects that have gone this route, below are the top factors in deciding whether to pursue a fiscal sponsorship arrangement:

  • Time spent on administration. Many projects choose fiscal sponsorship out of a simple desire to focus on programming rather than governance issues or the nitty-gritty of administration (procurement, financial reporting, human resources, etc.).
  • A need to be nimble and/or drive short-term impact. Fiscal sponsorship is an option for activities like art exhibitions and disaster relief efforts, both of which require flexibility and are often short-term in nature.
  • Getting value from economies of scale. Overhead is always a consideration, and many projects worry that setting up their own formal organization will be too expensive and/or duplicative of other’s efforts.
  • Leveraging synergies. In best-case situations, hosted projects and their sponsors learn from each other’s activities and share networking opportunities, funding information, and strategic insight.
  • Balancing the interests of founders, funders, and stakeholders. Many networks and donor collaboratives choose fiscal sponsorship because member organizations are concerned about the hosting organization prioritizing its own issues and fundraising above the network’s needs.
  • Qualifying for tax-exempt donations sooner rather than later. When done properly, fiscal sponsorship enables a project or startup to receive tax-exempt donations (based on the public charity status of its sponsor) more quickly than if it had decided to set itself up as a 501(c)(3).

Fiscal sponsorship is not for everyone. The San Francisco Bar Association has a nice list of trade-offs, including loss of formal control,  branding issues, potential costs, and the difficulty of disentangling oneself from such an arrangement at a later date. Let us add here that a lawyer should be consulted on many of these issues.

We also don't want to see social sector leaders be daunted by the prospect of creating a new nonprofit entity. Nathaniel Heller is among those who have argued that too many projects and startups avoid the initial work of creating an independent nonprofit organization. There are also other options for structuring certain types of projects and networks (e.g., decentralizing work across members of a network).

Before diving into all the different models out there, project leads and their supporters will want to explore what it is they need and want. In TAI's case, we scoped out and prioritized the needs of the collaborative, including issues related to governance, administration, financial management, and human resources. We recommend others do the same: nailing down what it is you really want to accomplish and what you need to do it is invaluable information for key stakeholders as they consider the options available. It also will help if fiscal sponsorship is the model you decide on, as most sponsors will be eager to know more about your needs with respect to financial reporting, vendor management, hiring, and so on.

Funders are already embracing the fiscal sponsorship model. What are the implications for the nonprofit sector long term? If more projects are fiscally-sponsored, what might that mean for more traditional nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)? From where we sit, it seems that a growing number of NGOs are trying to capture the spirit of fiscal sponsorship with initiatives of their own, especially international NGOs, where the demand for fiscal sponsors who can hire international staff is great.

For their part, nonprofit leaders need to be aware of this trend and consider its relevance for their organizations. A growth industry often generates disruptive ripple effects. Pay attention to how new pilots, startups, networks, and collaborations in your issue area are being structured and how those changes might be shifting donor expectations. Are there ways to take advantage of these changes by offering sponsorship opportunities to others? Is there an opportunity to take advantage of the expertise and experience of another organization to incubate a new idea, spin out a project that has gained some traction but needs more support to generate impact, or create something with a fixed timeline? Maybe you’re just tired of the never-ending struggle to pay the rent and keep the lights on and are ready to let someone else worry about fundraising while you devote yourself to the cause or mission. If any those sound familiar, then fiscal sponsorship is a model you may want to consider.

Headshot_jenny_lah_michael_jarvisMichael Jarvis is executive director of the Transparency and Accountability Initiative, a global funders collaborative committed to building a more just, equitable, and inclusive society. Jenny Lah is an independent consultant who specializes in strategy, research, and organizational development, mainly in the international development sector. She has consulted with TAI as well as several other international networks on fiscal sponsorship and governance issues. Please note: the material above has not been reviewed by a lawyer. Organizations considering becoming or using a fiscal sponsor should get advice from an attorney with experience in nonprofit law.

Pediatricians Say Racism Is Devastating to Black Children — Let's Get to the Root Cause

August 19, 2019

Stop_racismIt's amazing how often the news media give big play to an academic report that tells us something black mothers already knew. Another example of the truism that nothing is considered real until white people discover or acknowledge it. Does that seem harsh? Consider the splashy coverage given to a recent policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics titled The Impact of Racism on Child and Adolescent Health (16 pages, PDF).

AAP's statement warns that the health dangers posed to children by racism "have become acute" and that racism, including racism experienced by the mother, "can have devastating long-term effects on children's health." It's received plenty of favorable news coverage.

But with all due respect, every black mother in America has known this for as long as there have been black mothers in America. And we didn't need an academic statement to tell us. Every precious baby to whom we have given birth over the course of the last four hundred years has come into a world that profoundly devalues black life.

What may be new to us is the devastating detail contained in the report: "The stress generated by experiences of racism may start through maternal exposures while in utero and continue after birth with the potential to create toxic stress. This transforms how the brain and body respond to stress, resulting in short- and long-term health impacts on achievement and mental and physical health. We see the manifestations of this stress as preterm births and low birth weights in newborns to subsequent development of heart disease, diabetes and depression as children become adults."

This should set off alarm bells across the black community, particularly among black mothers.

We urgently need to find a way to protect the health and well-being of our children in light of this deepening health crisis, the recent mass shootings in which children were among the victims, and the resurgence of white supremacy.

Let's begin with AAP's entirely accurate description of racism as "a socially transmitted disease passed down through generations leading to the inequities observed in our population today."

Exactly right. Here in the United States and around the world, black children are seen as "less than" — less beautiful, less lovable, less capable, less intelligent, less worthy, less valuable.

AAP has made a range of reasonable recommendations using the usual language from our culture's standard dictionary on racism, including "racial equality," "racial equity," "institutional structures," and "implicit and explicit biases." They point to the need for strategies to "optimize clinical care, workforce development, professional education, systems engagement and research in a manner designed to reduce the health effects of structural, personally mediated, and internalized racism, and improve the health and well-being of all children."

These are all good ideas, but we've heard some version of them before.

What's missing is a diagnosis and a cure that get to the root of the problem.

So, what can we, black people, do to open the door to fresh recommendations that will yield something new and much better for our children? We can pinpoint the root cause of all the harms AAP describes. It is the myth of black inferiority.

That myth — or as I prefer to call it, the lie — of black inferiority, was devised centuries ago to justify the enslavement of African people. It dehumanized black people and placed us and our children at the bottom rung of humanity.

Do you wonder why, with all the constitutional amendments and legislation and court decisions aimed at promoting racial equality, the same problems persist — and seem to be getting worse? It's because the lie continues to negatively affect the world's perceptions of black children and black children's perceptions of themselves.

The lie is at the root of the glaring disparities between black and white children in health, safety, education, employment, wealth, mass incarceration, and nearly every other area of life. It is the reason why our children's lives are devalued. It is the reason why doing anything while black can be dangerous, even deadly.

The lie of black inferiority is at the root of countless lost dreams, lost hopes, and lost lives. As a black mother, I say that unless we, black people, insist that pediatricians and anyone else concerned about the well-being of black children have the insight and courage to name and aggressively address that root cause, our children will continue to pay the price.

Enola Aird, Esq., is founder and president of the Community Healing Network, a not-for-profit organization based in New Haven, Connecticut. Since its founding in 2006, CHN’s primary mission has been to actively address the psychological damage that people of African ancestry have suffered because of the centuries-old "lie" that black people are inferior. In collaboration with the Association of Black Psychologists, it currently is leading a global movement to train thousands of Emotional Emancipation (EE) Circle support group leaders across the diaspora to heal the wounds of racism and create a new culture of emotional healing, wellness, and empowerment in black communities.

Ten Years of Millennial Research: What I’d Do Differently

August 16, 2019

MillennialsIt's finally here — the final Millennial Impact Report, the culmination of a decade of research conducted by the Case Foundation and research teams I led into cause behaviors of the generation born between 1980 and 2000.

Any project of that magnitude — we interviewed more than 150,000 millennials, held hours and hours of focus groups, compiled and analyzed reams of data, and wrote volumes of narrative — begs the question: Would we do it all over again?

Absolutely — albeit with some tweaks based on what we've learned.

When we launched the project in 2008 — and over most of the next ten years — making assumptions about millennials seemed to be a favorite pastime of many of the people we interviewed or spoke to. We heard that millennials were lazy and more entitled than any  generation before them. They believed they deserved big salaries right out of college, and when reality hit they moved into their parents’ basement (still the most enduring cliché about young Americans in this age group).

Put it all together and you got the biggest assumption of all: there was no way millennials would want to get actively involved in causes.

When we set out to learn about millennials, it wasn't to prove (or disprove) our own assumptions; it was to better understand their real motivations and behaviors. So we designed the research process to be an ongoing journey of discovery. I wouldn't change a thing about that.

But in looking back at our journey, there are some things I wish we had explored further:

We ignored stereotypes but did we miss part of the picture? Although we all were aware of the often superficial things said and published about millennials (how could we not be?), and maybe disagreed (or agreed) with some of it, we did our best to ignore the most egregious assumptions and clichés. While the data we collected disproved most of those stereotypes, we know millennials heard and were paying attention to them; in fact, they often were repeated  back to us in surveys and focus groups when we asked millennials how they thought others perceived them. Looking back at some of those sessions, I can't help but wonder whether and how much millennial stereotypes actually helped influence millennials' approach to causes and cause-related work.

Here's an example: we discovered that many survey respondents and focus group participants believed millennials were careful to discuss issues and causes only with close friends and,  concerned that doing so could lead to tense conversations or nasty disagreements, were reluctant to share their opinions about such things with family or colleagues. Was that actual behavior they had observed, or were they simply recycling the stereotype of millennials as conflict-averse? And to what extent were non-millennials' perception of millennials influenced by exposure to such stereotypes? Today I not only wonder how much generational dynamics influenced the responses we collected, but how they might have affected the willingness of survey respondents and focus group participants to share their views — or "hear" the viewpoints of others.

We didn't examine how generations influence each other and they do. We looked at what was happening in the moment and not necessarily how generations had influenced each other to arrive at that moment. The reality, of course, is that every generation is affected by and affects other generations.

Boomers, for example, didn't one day decide that they needed to work crazy hours to get ahead; they grew up with parents and grandparents who themselves had grown up during the Depression and imbibed that earlier generation's work ethic.

Gen X, labeled cynical and unfocused at first by parents and older siblings who didn't understand them, grew up and became entrepreneurs and passionate volunteers committed to more causes than any generation before them.

It shouldn't come as a surprise, therefore, that millennials were slapped with unflattering labels right out of the gate by career-focused boomers and entrepreneurial Xers. Members of both of those generations worked hard for their successes — even as they created new work cultures and ideas about work-life balance that millennials took advantage of.

We tracked behaviors but didn't track who and what was influencing those behaviors. Nearly everyone possesses a certain degree of empathy, the very human impulse to help others. Whether we suppress this impulse or act on it often is a function of other aspects of — and people in — our lives. Over the ten years of the project, we inquired and tracked many cause-related behaviors, but we could have delved more deeply into the influences — or absence thereof — that drove them.

If we are to create real, meaningful social change, it is important we understand the influences that shape (and challenge) our actions and engagement. That's why the research we're involved in now, Cause and Social Influence, is looking beyond individual behavior into the who, what, how, and why of influence. I look forward to sharing our findings in October!

In truth, no generation has ever lived up to the initial public persona foisted on it by previous generations, and generations being critical of each other is nothing new. Expressions like "In my day, we had to [fill in the blank]" or "We were lucky to [fill in the blank]" will always be part of the inter-generational conversation because…well, that's just human nature.

But thanks to the research we've been doing, we are beginning to understand that these generational generalizations are detrimental to the conversations we need to have if we are to advance the kind of change we all want to see. Millennials were never too lazy or self-centered to be politically aware and active, to volunteer for and give to causes, or to passionately want to create change that helps others live healthier, happier, and more fulfilling lives. And now, as they enter the most productive years of their lives, we can only begin to imagine what that change will look like. I, for one, can't wait to find out.

I encourage you to download the final Millennial Impact Report, Understanding How Millennials Engage With Causes and Social Issues: Insights From 10 Years of Research Working in Partnership With Young Americans on Causes Today and in the Future. And to stay abreast of our new research on influences, follow us at causeandsocialinfluence and @causeinfluence.

Headshot_derrick_feldmann_2015Derrick Feldmann (@derrickfeldmann) is the author of Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change, the founder of the Millennial Impact Project, and lead researcher at Cause and Social Influence.

A Tale of Two Donations

August 15, 2019

Charitable-giftEarlier this year, I made a $15 donation to a small nonprofit and also pledged a planned gift, potentially worth six figures, to a huge charity. Guess which organization did a better job of followup?

Prompted by one of those "Thanks to a generous donor, all donations made TODAY will be matched!" appeals, I made the $15 donation online. As with most online donations, within minutes of pressing the "Donate" button I received an acknowledgment of my support.

But what was truly astonishing was what happened over the next two weeks: not only did I receive a written thank-you personally signed by the executive director by regular mail, I also received a phone call from a staffer thanking me for my generosity.

The potential six-figure planned gift was made in person, in the charity's office. I was there for a meeting and learned by happenstance that every time the organization was mentioned in a will or named as a beneficiary of a retirement fund, an anonymous donor would make a substantial gift to the group. I had long admired the charity's work, had made numerous gifts in support of its efforts in the past, and years ago had designated a percentage of my retirement account, upon my death, to its cause. With pleasure, I signed the pledge card, knowing that my potential future gift would also have an immediate impact on the organization's bottom line. I was thanked in person for my gift and was told I'd be invited to an event for those who had committed to making similar gifts.

Months have passed since that day and I have yet to receive a written thank-you note — either via email or regular mail — for my pledge, nor any formal welcome to the organization's planned-giving society. No one has asked me to document the pledge or share the name of the investment company that manages my retirement fund. I have received no communiqués spelling out how my future gift will make a difference. Nor, for that matter, have I received any information about a donor event.

The organization that received my modest $15 donation raises less than $2 million annually, has a small staff, and, according to its financial filings, depends on the generosity of about a dozen individuals for approximately half of its funding. Given its size and relatively narrow donor base, one could argue that it needs to enthusiastically steward all donors and supporters who come its way.

By contrast, the second charity is many times larger, in both budget and staff headcount, and has an experienced, professional development office — which makes it all the more puzzling that the organization has made no effort to date to acknowledge my planned gift. After all, if the donor of such a gift does not feel valued and appreciated, there's nothing to prevent him or her from changing the named beneficiary of the gift.

To be clear: I am still committed to the mission of the second charity, and my primary motivation for making my pledge was to ensure its good work continues after I am gone — not because I need someone to say "thank you."

But in the ever-crowded marketplace for philanthropic dollars, a charity cannot assume that others will feel the same way.

According to Giving USA 2019: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2018, there are at least two emerging trends that should worry leaders in the nonprofit sector: 1) the 1.6 percent year-over-year increase in dollars donated by individuals in 2018 was almost entirely driven by gifts of $1,000 or more, even as the number of people who gave fell by 4.5 percent and the number of new donors fell by a worrisome 7.3 percent; and 2) the nearly $40 billion total in charitable bequests in 2018 was essentially unchanged from the 2017 total (and down 2.3 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars) — despite rising mortality rates among the Silent Generation (those born before 1946) and the oldest boomers (those born after 1946).

Put simply, the data suggests that charities which ignore both ends of the giving spectrum — new, lower-level donors who might one day become bigger donors, as well as those who care enough about a cause or organization to include it in their estate plans — do so at their own peril.

My small charity of choice knows what means to have a donor-centric culture. As for the larger one, the jury is still out.       

Headshot_ellen_flax_PhilanTopicEllen Flax (www.ellenflax.com) served as the director of a public foundation and as a program officer and consultant at several large family foundations and now works as a philanthropy consultant.

Family Funders: Always Important in Rural Communities

August 14, 2019

Washington-rpa-report-1200x675The history of the United States is a history of wealth created in rural America: timber and wood products in the Northwest and Northeast; fossil fuels in Appalachia, the Southwest and Rocky Mountain region; textiles in the South. Related philanthropic funds have been created alongside these industries — often in the form of multi-generational family commitments to rural communities. With the renewed focus today on the challenges and opportunities confronting rural America, it’s a good time to take a look at how rural philanthropy fits into the philanthropic field as a whole, as well as at how the evolving field of rural philanthropy is helping to support more and better philanthropic investments in rural communities.

One narrative about rural philanthropy holds that rural America has received far fewer philanthropic dollars over the years on a proportional basis. This is true. The best data we have indicates that rural philanthropic investment comprises just 7 percent of  total private foundation grantmaking, while rural America accounts for 20 percent of the U.S. population — and 90 percent of the land! An equally compelling narrative, however, is that rural-serving foundations — often family-governed — are a strong and consistent factor in helping rural communities face the future with a sense of optimism. Over the years, family foundations like the Blandin Foundation in Minnesota, the Ford Family Foundation in Oregon, the LOR Foundation in Wyoming, the Orton Family Foundation in Vermont, and the T.L.L. Temple Foundation in Texas have made long-term commitments to rural community success.

A question I’m often asked is: How does rural philanthropy differ from urban foundation work? The answer lies in both tactics and cultural context. Much urban philanthropy is focused on the development and implementation of large-scale best-practice models around specific issues — health, education, early childhood development, and so on. Grants are made to large staffed nonprofits with the aim of reaching thousands (if not tens of thousands) of constituents, and funders often dictate the specifics of the intervention and the outcomes. In effect, the funder is contracting for results.

The best rural philanthropic work operates differently. The emphasis is on place, not on a specific issue or intervention. It’s an approach that reflects how people live and work in rural communities — often wearing multiple hats (teacher, pastor, coach,  civic committee chairperson) concurrently. There may not be a large, well-oiled, local nonprofit to serve as the primary recipient of the grant. Instead, funders typically look to alternative anchor institution such as libraries, community colleges, or parks and recreation departments to administer the grant and work closely with smaller nonprofits that can do the job but may need extra support in order to expand their services and impact. The scale of the work is also different. But while the numbers might be smaller, the opportunity to do transformational work is significant.

Increasingly, equity is a part of many urban funders’ mission and funding strategies. While it is defined differently depending on the issue and outcomes, it always involves long-term disparities in access and opportunity for historically marginalized people. Many rural communities also struggle with divisions around race and ethnicity, and newer versions of these divisions have come into play with the arrival of new immigrants across rural America. The best rural philanthropic work recognizes and works to create equity around opportunity. This might entail broadening the voices that are heard in a rural community, bridging divides around broadband and health care, or opening up access to higher education for those previously shut out.

At the same time, rural communities can be dominated by close-knit leadership structures that leave lots of people on the outside looking in. Because of its historic roots in many of these communities, family philanthropy often is in the best position to promote and support inclusion and ensure the future viability and success of these communities.

One new philanthropic player in many rural communities is the healthcare conversion foundation. Created from the sale of nonprofit healthcare assets to for-profit providers, there are now more than three hundred and fifty of these foundations nationally, and many of them are rural-based or have a large rural footprint mirroring the service area of the original nonprofit. The opportunity for long-term rural-serving family foundations to collaborate and leverage their efforts with these newer conversion foundations is an underappreciated and -developed part of the rural philanthropic landscape. In the best circumstances, deeply rooted family funders can serve as mentors and connectors for the conversion foundations as they get the lay of the land while helping to diffuse the confusion and anxiety that often results from a large influx of new philanthropic capital into small and often underresourced communities.

Family philanthropy was present in rural America long before there was ever a "field" of philanthropy. Going back to the nineteenth century, families that prospered in America gave back by building schools, hospitals, and libraries. With that history to draw on, and with the technologies and philanthropic expertise developed over the last quarter-century at their fingertips, today's family foundations have a golden opportunity to support the kind of long-term systems change needed for rural communities to thrive. Fortuntaely, there are many willing thought and funding partners out there eager to be part of their efforts.

Headshot_Allen_SmartPhilanthropywoRx founder Allen Smart is a national spokesperson and advocate for improving rural philanthropic practice. A former interim president, vice president of programs, and director of the Health Care Division at the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, Smart recently served as project director for a national rural philanthropic project partially supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and based at Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina. He also regularly consults with regional and national foundations on rural and philanthropic strategy. A version of this post originally appeared on the National Center for Family Philanthropy site.

Helping California Students Access College Financial Aid

August 09, 2019

FASA_appAs underserved communities continue to struggle, philanthropy is stepping up to ensure that nonprofits serving those communities are able to apply for and receive the support they so desperately need.

The Spark Grant program, a new initiative of the Michelson 20MM Foundation, aims to disrupt the slow and often opaque traditional foundation grant application process. The program gives organizations aligned with Michelson's mission a quick and easy way to apply for grants of up to $25,000. Unlike with a traditional grant, applicants to the Spark Grant program receive a decision on their proposals in just fifteen business days. The rapid turnaround makes Spark Grants particularly well suited to project-based initiatives designed to increase the number of underserved learners enrolled in postsecondary opportunities or help students earn a college or vocational credential that positions them for a well-paying job.

College Affordability

Michelson 20MM is passionate about making higher education more affordable for more people, particularly in this moment, when postsecondary education has never been more critical — or more expensive.

According to Sarah Goldrick-Rab, a professor of sociology at Temple University in Philadelphia, the rising cost of higher education puts college out of reach for many, if not most, students without some form of financial aid.

"The real price of attending college is higher than what colleges care to admit," says Goldrick-Rab. "The solution is making public colleges and universities accessible to everyone, like we do for high school, and operating under the assumption that everyone needs financial help."

In order to secure the financial aid they need, however, students must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) — the tool used by the federal government to determine financial aid eligibility. Unfortunately, many students have never heard of FAFSA or, if they have, are not successful in filling it out, which often results in them receiving either no aid or far less than they should. (It's also common for students who received aid for their first year of school not to re-apply through FAFSA in subsequent years.)

Enter Education Trust-West

Education Trust˗West is one of the first recipients of a Michelson 20MM Spark Grant. Founded in 2001 to address educational disparities experienced by low-income students and students of color in California, the organization works to ensure that students from underserved populations have access to a high-quality education while closing the opportunity gap between those students and their white middle-class peers.

"In the past two years in California, nearly a half million high school seniors didn't complete a financial aid application," says Tyler Wu, a higher education policy analyst at the organization.

The issue was elevated a year ago with the passage of California Assembly Bill 2015, which goes into effect in time for the 2020-21 school year. AB-2015 requires that every high school in California provide information to students about financial aid applications at least once before they enter twelfth grade — a step that has proved to increase financial aid completion rates. With the passage of AB-2105, says Wu, there is an urgent need for tools and resources that ensure the implementation of the law in ways that maximize educational equity for low-income students and students of color.

Education Trust˗West will use its $25,000 Spark Grant to fund the development of a California Digital Financial Aid Awareness Toolkit — a set of resources designed to improve awareness and understanding of FAFSA among high school and district administrators, counselors, and teachers and ensure that low-income students and students of color fill out the application successfully.

"Our goal is to get these resources in the hands of more educators around the state," says Wu, adding that the project will enable Education Trust˗West staff to meet with local and community educators and walk them through the toolkit, with the goal of boosting application rates statewide and putting more low-income students and students of color in a position to apply for the financial aid they need to go to college or vocational school.

The second round of the Spark Grant program opened for applications on August 5. Do you have an innovative education project that could benefit from an expedited grant? We’d love to hear from you.

Headshot_mayra_lombera_PhilanTopicMayra Lombera is director of strategic initiatives at the Michelson 20MM Foundation.

Building the Community We'd Like to See

August 08, 2019

Logo_BCYFPresident Trump recently made disparaging remarks about Baltimore that made headlines across the country. His comments stoked anger and outrage. He tarred Baltimore with a broad and reckless brush without offering even a token gesture of support from his administration.

This president has learned it is easy to throw stones. He hasn't learned how to pick up stones and build. Instead of tearing us down, Baltimore needs leaders at the state and federal levels who are committed to building.

Like many American cities, Baltimore struggles with the long-term consequences of disinvestment and segregation: aging infrastructure, dwindling resources, and too few opportunities for young people.

And so our city celebrated the creation of the historic Baltimore Children and Youth Fund as a beacon of hope and possibility, and as a commitment to the city's most important resource for the future: our young people.

BCYF was launched in 2015 by Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young, who was then the president of the Baltimore City Council. The fund was approved by voters in November 2016 with more than 80 percent support. The non-lapsing fund is supported through an annual set aside of property tax revenue.

Baltimore is only the third city in the nation to create such a fund, and it is the only fund of its kind that has included a racial equity and community participatory lens in grant selections. You will not find this sort of program anywhere in the country.

Why does this matter?

When Freddie Gray died in 2015, many of us came to realize that our institutions, including public and private, weren't setting young people up for success. While a host of needed reforms were launched to address community and law enforcement relationships, a glaring question remained: How do we show our young people we are willing to invest in their future and provide entry points to help them find opportunity and long-term success?

BCYF is an important step forward in answering that question.

Community leaders agree. With less than $11 million available, the fund received $75 million in grant requests through nearly five hundred grant applications.

In its first year, BCYF granted $10.8 million in funding to eighty-four organizations. The grantees were a mix of small organizations and established nonprofits working on everything from mindfulness and mediation to financial literacy. Notably, 63 percent of the organizations funded in the first year were African American-led.

In what city does this happen? It's happening in our city. It's happening in Baltimore.

Too often when community leaders gather to outline solutions to various problems, they fail to include directly impacted people. Not this time. The fiscal steward Associated Black Charities and a team of professionals offered over three thousand hours of help to grantees who may have been new to the funder-grantee relationship or in need of added capacity to ensure maximum impact.

Before BCYF ever issued grants, they held community design sessions, technical assistance workshops, and trainings to ensure the community was prepared to complete the grant application and access resources. As a professional grantmaker with an extensive career in philanthropy, I know that this level of engagement between a funder and the community is rare.

For our president, spewing insults has become the standard response to criticism. He seems to want to drive us apart.

But in Baltimore, we know we can only succeed if we all move forward together. Just as a relay race involves multiple runners, sustained support for children, youth, and young adults requires multiple partners at the local, state, and federal levels.

Headshot_Patrick_McCarthyThe Baltimore Children and Youth Fund is a groundbreaking start. Let's build on it, and programs like it, to shape the future we'd like to see for our city.

Patrick McCarthy, PhD, retired in December as president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a position he held for nine years.

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (July 2019)

August 02, 2019

It's August, and here on the East Coast the living is...steamy. Not to worry. Our most popular posts from July will cool you down and make you smarter....

Interested in contributing to PND or PhilanTopic? We'd love to hear from you. Drop us a note at Mitch.Nauufts@Candid.org.

Black Wealth 2020 Adds HBCUs to Its Economic Empowerment Agenda

August 01, 2019

1515184852588The short-term economic impact of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) is $15 billion — rivaling that of corporations such as Bank of America and its more than 177,000 employees.
 
Yet according to the U. S. Department of Education, approximately 60 percent of all black college students have no expectation of a family financial contribution to their education. That's far lower than that for whites, for whom the number is approximately 30 percent. And it's approximately 48 percent for Latinos and 38 percent for Asians.
 
The economic impact of HBCUs, their struggle to stay afloat, and the dire financial disparities faced by HBCU students are the reasons that Black Wealth 2020, a catalyst for black economic equality, recently decided to add HBCUs as a forth leg to its three-pronged approach to growing black wealth (the others are black-owned businesses, black banks, and black homeownership).
 
"We've got to keep on pushing this agenda. And hooking up with HBCUs is a big way of doing that," said Michael Grant, former president of the National Bankers Association and a founder of Black Wealth 2020 in a meeting just before the principals voted unanimously to acknowledge HBCUs as being "central to strengthening the American economy."
 
"If we're serious about building black wealth," Grant added, "how can we not have a focus on our youth and the next generation?"
 
The expansion of the organization's vision was inspired, in part, by a presentation by Dr. Lezli Baskerville, president/CEO of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education and a principal of Black Wealth 2020.
 
"But for HBCUs, there would be no African-American middle class today. And that's a documented fact," Baskerville told the group. "Just the existence of HBCUs in our communities — even the ones that are not thriving — ends up collectively generating about $15 billion in short-term economic benefit. And that doesn't include anything other than what the institutions and their employees and students spend in surrounding communities."
 
Robert Smith's Morehouse initiative challenges black community on its support for HBCUs
 
In an initial move to encourage support for HBCUs, Black Wealth 2020 principals have also sent a thank-you letter to billionaire businessman Robert Smith, chairman/CEO of Vista Equity Partners, who touched hearts across the nation when he announced he would pay off the student loans of the Morehouse College class of 2019.
 
The letter applauded Smith, saying, "With student debt nationally at over $1.4 trillion and with the average college student leaving school $30,000 in debt, your gift not only relieved an enormous financial burden from...Morehouse [students] and their parents, you have challenged all African-Americans of means to think bigger about how to use their wealth to improve the lives of others within our race."
 
Members and supporters of the Black Wealth 2020 coalition include the National Association of Black-Owned Broadcasters; the U. S. Black Chambers, Inc.; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority; the National Bankers Association; the Collective Empowerment Group; the National Association of Real Estate Brokers; the National Black Caucus of State Legislators; the National Urban League's Marc Morial; the National Association for Equal Opportunity; Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA); former Small Business Aadministration deputy administrator Marie Johns; John Rogers, CEO of Ariel Investments; Andy Ingraham, CEO of the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers; and Marcia Griffin, CEO of HomeFree-USA.
 
"We thought it fitting that a coalition committed to building wealth should take the opportunity to acknowledge and praise your commitment to uplifting our people," the letter to Smith said in closing.
 
HBCUs struggle for funding — to the detriment of the nation
 
In her presentation to Black Wealth 2020 on the state of HBCUs, Baskerville made the case that student loan debt is inevitable for students whose families cannot help them pay for college. But, she noted, financial issues also hinder even good students from making it through college.
 
Baskerville drew heavily from a report compiled by economist Bill Spriggs, who has argued that HBCUs are the key to diversifying the tech industry, currently among the top-paying industries in the United States.
 
"In the pipeline of people who generate wealth in the African ancestry community, there is not today a challenge in terms of blacks getting into college," said Baskerville. "[Spriggs'] data shows that there is no disparity in the percentages of African-Americans from high-needs areas and whites that are enrolling in college. The gap happens after they get in. It's not that they're not prepared and could not thrive, given the opportunity; it's that once they get in, they don't have the dollars."
 
Among other facts Baskerville cited from the Spriggs report:
  • Despite the financial challenges faced by many institutions and the students themselves, HBCUs are performing above average and do very well in moving students from low-income families into the top 20 percent of income distribution.
  • Many non-HBCU universities now have more students from the top 1 percent than from the bottom 40 percent.
  • With a declining number of white students in the general population and a growing share of low-income students, HBCUs are an underresourced asset for the U.S. economy.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are currently a hundred and seven HBCUs operating in the United States. All  struggle with funding.
 
HBCUs Punching Above Their Weight (36 pages, PDF),  a recent report from the United Negro College Fund, the premier fundraising organization for HBCUs, says that despite their difficulties, HBCUs are still succeeding beyond expectations.
 
"Given their small average size and a history of being underresourced, the enrollment, degree and economic impacts of HBCUs on African Americans in their respective states are significantly greater than one would expect," the report states.
 
Principals of Black Wealth 2020 have vowed to push for the growth of HBCUs as part of their respective agendas and encourage other major organizations and the general public to join them.
 
"It means that for nearly a hundred and fifty years, we've had institutions of higher learning that have produced some of the best and brightest African Americans, and we still recognize the benefits that accrued to the African-American community because of historically black colleges and universities," said the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Weaver, a Black Wealth 2020 principal who represents the Collective Empowerment Group, an economic initiative involving approximately eight hundred black churches. "It's only fitting that Black Wealth 2020 would have a relationship through which we can find ways to collaborate and partner to create even greater synergy within the African-American community with historically black colleges and universities."
 
Headshot_HazelTriceEdneyHazel Trice Edney is the president/CEO of Trice Edney Communications and a former editor-in-chief of the NNPA News Service.

What's New at Candid (July 2019)

July 30, 2019

Candid logoWhenever someone asks me how things are going with our newly minted Candid, I honestly reply "it's never dull!" There are a lot of moving pieces as we develop our Candid 2030 strategy while continuing to share insights on everything from human rights funding to our nonprofit data profiles. After you've read through this update, please shoot me an email about what you'd like to hear from us going forward.

Project Highlights

Thought Leadership Highlights

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Candid in the News

I was honored to author two articles recently, one in the Chronicle of Philanthropy on lifting up philanthropy's unheard voices and another in Alliance magazine on a powerful learning experience many of us had at the recent United Philanthropy Forum conference. Candid also has been featured in several recent articles:

To check out more mentions of Candid in the news, see our press page.

Services Spotlight

Data Spotlight

  • The performance of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team at the 2019 World Cup has generated renewed interest in gender-based pay-discrimination and equal pay for women. Take a look at how funders are supporting equality rights and freedom from discrimination for marginalized groups, including more than $84 million in grants for Women and Girls.
  • Data collected through the U.S. Census every ten years is a key factor in the distribution of more than $675 billion in federal funding. In advance of the 2020 census, foundations have joined forces with advocates and census experts to help support an accurate count. We've identified 53 grants, ranging from $5,000 to $3 million, awarded since 2011 that reference the census. Learn more here.
  • The number of eBooks checked out in June was 123, bringing the total number of eBook checkouts over the life of the program to 1,746. In addition, the number of eBook user registrations in June was 86, bringing the total to 1,253. We now have 209 eBooks in our collection, including 183 unique titles.
  • We completed custom data searches for the Center for Effective Philanthropy, the Community Foundation of Hawaii, the Federal Reserve of St. Louis, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, the National Endowment for the Arts, and School of Philanthropy and Public Policy at the University of Southern California.
  • Last but not least, we welcomed ten new data sharing partners in June: the Beverly Jackson Foundation, the Fouress Foundation, the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, the Lynch Foundation, the Michigan Humanities Council, Proteus Action League, the Michael Reese Health Trust, the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton, Warsh-Mott Legacy, and the WCA Foundation. Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.

If you found this update helpful, feel free to share it or shoot us an email. I’ll be back next month with another update.

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Candid.

Native Wisdom: A Review of Edgar Villanueva’s 'Decolonizing Wealth'

July 26, 2019

Cover_decolonizing_wealthIn his book, The Wretched of the Earth, published in 1961, Frantz Fanon noted what he considered to be the necessary conditions for the overthrow of colonialism: "To tell the truth, the proof of success lies in a whole social structure being changed from the bottom up." He added that "establishing a social movement for the decolonization of a person and of a people" was critical in disrupting the legacy of colonialism.

Almost sixty years later, Edgar Villanueva picks up on Fanon's call to action in his book Decolonizing Wealth. In the book, Villanueva places a spotlight on how colonialism has been perpetuated and stresses the importance of eliminating it from circles of wealth and, in particular, philanthropy, making it perhaps the most refreshing and insightful of the recent spate of books on foundations.

Villanueva is a rare combination: both a grantmaker and a member of the Lumbee Tribe, one of eight state-recognized Native American tribes in North Carolina. Drawing on Native American wisdom, he presents an eye-opening prescription for how foundations can dismantle the unequal power dynamic that historically has separated funders from the nonprofit organizations they support. Invoking the understanding common among indigenous people of medicine as "a way of achieving balance," he outlines what he terms "Seven Steps to Healing" — Grieve, Apologize, Listen, Relate, Represent, Invest, and Repair — with the caveat that the steps are less a checklist for funders to complete than an invitation to them to embark on a journey of "decolonization."

Differentiating himself from many of philanthropy's contemporary critics, Villanueva does readers a great service by focusing their attention on the grantmaking process. It's hardly a secret that change in the ways foundations operate is long overdue. What's so refreshing about Villanueva's approach is his application of a decolonization lens to that call to action, drawing on his own experience as a member of the Lumbee, the very first people on the North American continent to experience directly the arrival of and subsequent colonization by Europeans. In the process, he reminds readers that white supremacy on the North American continent has its origins in the 1400s and establishes the connection between that long, shameful legacy to current organized philanthropic practices. His blueprint for addressing that legacy offers a powerful set of arguments as to why those most impacted by the activities of foundations should be more involved in foundations' decision-making processes and why foundation officials have to go beyond their current practices and take steps to bridge the divide between grantmakers and grantees.

Villanueva moves quickly from his deconstruction of how foundation practices are embedded in colonialism to solutions, noting that they are easily found in the practices and traditions of the continent's indigenous peoples. "All of us who have been forced to the margins," he writes, "are the very ones who harbor the best solutions for healing, progress and peace, by virtue of our outsider perspective and resilience." At the same time, his sense of "otherness" empowers him to ask difficult questions. He addresses, for instance, the question of where foundations choose to locate their offices. Are they located in  neighborhoods that foundations have targeted for their support? Are they designed and run in a way that is welcoming or intimidating for grantees? Even more challengingly, he probes the extent to which foundations must come to grips with the sources of their wealth, at one point asking whether foundations should actively seek out ways to address the business abuses of their founders? In many ways, Villanueva is both championing and reviving a point of view with a long tradition in organized philanthropic practice in the U.S., but doing so with a powerful new idiom and moral authority.

Perhaps most importantly, Decolonizing Wealth calls on foundations to give up or (at a minimum) share control of their decision-making with the people most affected by those decisions. Over the last several decades some family foundations and public foundations have taken modest steps in this direction. On July 28, 1961, for example, the Taconic Foundation invited a handful of civil rights leaders, including the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., to its offices in New York City to brief its trustees, foundation officials, and representatives of both the White House and the U.S. Department of Justice. The aim of the meeting was to bring other funders to the table to support voter registration efforts in the South. Other foundations have discovered the double value of adding grantee representatives to their board and hiring individuals from "affected communities" as program officers, while a growing number of foundations are tapping leaders in the fields they support to serve as trustees. (At many family foundations, those who serve in such roles typically are term-limited while family members are not.)

In San Diego, the Jacobs Family Foundation provides support to local partners involved in the Village at Market Creek, a sixty-acre community development plan for the city's Diamond Neighborhoods area that was created by teams of community residents. The foundation’s philosophy is to leverage its entire asset base for the benefit of its partners and grant recipients, and as a step in that direction the foundation has located an office in the neighborhood. Another example is Philadelphia-based People's Fund (today known as the Bread and Roses Community Fund), which has long supported grassroots social justice organizations. In the 1970s, all grant decisions made by the fund had to be voted on at an annual meeting open to "grantee partners" as well as donors and other stakeholders.

Twenty-five years later, as a program officer at the Ford Foundation, it was my turn to be exposed to the strongly-held belief (in the case of Ford) that those most affected by social and economic challenges are in the best position to craft optimal solutions to those challenges. Then, in 2011, while reading Janny Scott's book A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother, I learned about the work that Ann Dunham, Obama’s mother, did as a program officer for Ford in Indonesia in the 1970s. A  trained anthropologist, Dunham did not just sit in the foundation's Jakarta office and review proposals. Instead, she got out "in the field" and talked with local villagers and their elders about the challenges their communities faced. As a result of those conversations, she was able to craft grants that more directly responded to the aspirations of the people and communities Ford was there to help.

In a similar fashion, in the mid-80s, Ford engaged as consultants a number of frontline responders to the AIDS pandemic, including health officials, the chief executive officer of GMHC, and gay men either infected or affected by AIDS/HIV, to suggest strategies that would be most effective in stemming its devastation. (As the founding executive director of Funders Concerned About AIDS, I was privileged to be one of those who served in that capacity.) More often than not, such changes were due to the actions of well-placed individuals rather than from a structural analysis on the part of staff and board.

More recently, Jennifer and Peter Buffett's NoVo Foundation stepped in to help the women's movement in New York City create a place where women can gather. Similar places have existed for decades in cities as diverse as Rome and San Francisco. But New York, which has been a locus of women's organizing dating back to the nineteenth century, lacked such a hub. To correct the situation, NoVo stepped up and purchased a former correctional facility for women on Manhattan's West Side to serve as the site for the project and engaged a variety of stakeholders, including formerly incarcerated women  — "a circle of women leaders who bring wide-ranging skills, perspectives, and experience to the project" —  to make decisions about its use.

These examples suggest that the kind of participatory decision-making championed by Villanueva exists in philanthropy, but that they remain the exception rather than the rule. Which makes his book an even more powerful call to foundations to be focused and intentional as they embark on this journey.

In the final analysis, Villanueva's message is simple: the beneficiaries of foundation grants should be at the decision-making table. And if the field is to take seriously his call to action, then action is the next step. One hopeful sign that such change might be in our future can be seen in the fact that more than forty thousand people, including many foundation officials, have flocked to hear Villanueva speak since his book’s publication last year. Logical next steps to build the movement to decolonize organized philanthropy would include sharing stories of foundations that are on this journey; seeding programs at foundation gatherings in the Americas, Europe, Australia, and other continents whose governments are engaged in colonization; publishing case studies of participatory philanthropy; enlisting other voices as ambassadors; and continuing to collect and share emerging practices. We all must continue to explore new ways of creating greater equity between the institutions that hold the money and those who seek our support. Let this time in philanthropy be the moment of change.

Michael Seltzer is a distinguished lecturer at the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, Baruch College, City University of New York, board  chair of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa-USA, and a long-time contributor to PhilanTopic. A version of this review originally appeared on the HistPhil blog. To read more of Michael's posts for PND, click here.

Changing the Way Candid Serves You

July 23, 2019

ZBlog 2 Option 2Announcing Foundation Center and GuideStar had joined forces was just the beginning — now the real work of being Candid has started. We're busy combining operations on a number of fronts, and starting up new and exciting projects, too. I mentioned one of our most important initiatives in a previous post: the transition from our four regional library centers to our 400+ Funding Information Network (FIN) partner locations. We've received some thoughtful questions about what this evolution might mean for you.

What's happening to Candid's libraries?

We're not changing whom we serve, we're changing how we serve.

We've been around a long time, and over the years we've heard feedback from people who have struggled with our metro locations in terms of accessibility, hours, and parking fees and availability. Our current footprint of library locations in specific metro areas also locks our teams in to commitments behind the desk. Plus, now that we've become Candid, we have two offices in both the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington, D.C.

ZBlog 4 Option 1By the end of 2019, our Bay Area and Washington, D.C., offices will have been combined so that we have one office each in Oakland and D.C., while our Atlanta and Cleveland teams will be operating out of co-working or partner sites. We will no longer provide in-person library services at these locations, but you will still be able to get all of your questions answered through in-person trainings with our partner network and online services (more on this below).

Our largest office and library in New York will continue to operate in its full current form (still providing library services and trainings). We'll also begin experimenting with local programming close to Williamsburg, Virginia, where a large contingency of Candid team members are based.

How will these changes affect my local nonprofit community?

We're focused on continued and increased engagement in your community. Candid's mission continues to be to connect people who want to change the world to the resources they need to do it — research, collaboration, and training are the ways we accomplish that mission.

Our transition away from providing direct in-person library services at our own offices will free up our teams to interact directly with audiences beyond our own four walls. Taking our D.C. metro area location as an example: three of our FIN partners are within a ten-mile radius of our current location, and all three are Metro accessible. Our D.C. team plans to offer three to five classes per month at local partners and other locations, and they also plan on holding monthly training events at the University of the District of Columbia.

What does the Funding Information Network do?

Over more than sixty years, we've built up our Funding Information Network, which is made up of more than 400 partner locations across the U.S. and around the world. In 2018, 24 new partners joined the network, and visitors at our partner sites executed more than half a million searches on Candid databases.

Screen Shot 2019-07-08 at 2.59.29 PMThese public libraries, universities, and resource centers will continue to offer access to Candid databases on-site, free to the public. They also host our low- or no-cost fundraising trainings, including advanced courses such as our Proposal Writing Boot Camp.

In 2018, our partner locations led 166 trainings. In addition to these programs, our own Candid staff hosted 80 programs at partner locations that were attended by more than 1,500 people. And next year, thanks to the transition away from our own four library centers, Candid staff will be able to offer even more programs at these locations. You can find the current training schedule at our GrantSpace calendar.

How do network partners support local nonprofits?

The first way is through access to, and on-site assistance with, Candid databases like Foundation Directory Online. One of our partner locations in Michigan told us, "It is wonderful to have this resource and the teaching tools at our disposal. People come into our library looking for information on how to write or search for grants all the time. Being able to point them to GrantSpace or schedule an orientation to the database helps our community."

Network partners undergo Candid certification each year to become experts at navigating our databases and other resources. In addition, Candid offers a substantial amount of training to our partners, including a deep dive into what Candid is and what changes they can expect. More than 98 percent of our Funding Information Network partners meet, if not exceed, the partnership standards we've set out.

ZBlog 4 Option 2We track these standards each year, and we are constantly seeking new ways to ensure that our partners have access to and are provided training on Candid resources. Our regional staff works directly with our partners and hosts monthly and quarterly calls to continue building their capacity to serve your needs on the ground. In addition, we host annual conferences and training sessions with our FIN partners to keep them up to date and prepared to assist you.

The second way our partners support local nonprofits is through trainings. A partner from Ohio said, "The first class I ever taught resulted in an individual writing a letter of introduction to a foundation not accepting applications, getting asked to apply, and receiving a $50,000 grant. I just spoke to a frequent database user who has almost solidified a $500,000 grant for her nonprofit which works to bring military personnel back from overseas."

One of our partners in Arkansas shared, "Last year, a person was at our location quite frequently for most of the year. Now that person has succeeded in establishing a new enterprise locally that assists homeless LGBTQ young adults in Central Arkansas."

Another partner, from Georgia, said, "[Being a Funding Information Network partner] enables us to meet our strategic goals of building the community and partnering with other organizations to bring needed programs and resources to the community. The classes we offer have led to partnerships with nonprofits."

Check the local calendar on grantspace.org to see upcoming community events and use our map tool to find partners near you.

What if I can't get to a partner location?

You can connect with us online, anywhere, anytime. We have developed robust direct online reference services at grantspace.org, where you can get customized help from a real Candid staffer who has the expertise to help with any of your fundraising or nonprofit questions. In 2018, our Online Librarian service addressed more than 135,000 questions. Engaging with us via our online reference service is free, and even easier than a visit — you don't need to find parking to ask us your quick or in-depth questions.

ZBlog 5 Option 2Grantspace.org also continues to be a comprehensive online learning site, with access to thousands of knowledge resources/tools, blogs, videos, and, of course, a vast calendar of in-person, live-online, and on-demand training programs available at your fingertips. In 2018, we delivered 116 webinars and self-paced elearning courses to nearly 20,000 participants.

We also continue to build out our eBooks collection, ensuring anytime, anywhere access to our online collection of information resources. An average of one hundred users a month are taking advantage of this free service.

Whom can I contact if I have more questions?

Please don't hesitate to reach out to any of our team members with questions or ideas:

Western region: Michele Ragland Dilworth
Northeastern region: Kim Buckner Patton
Southern region: Maria Azuri
Midwestern region: Teleangé Thomas

We are thrilled for the opportunity this new operating model presents Candid and are very excited to meet with more of you across the U.S. As always, you can connect with me directly to talk about how we can serve you better.

Zohra Zori is vice president for social sector outreach at Candid.

________

Learn more about what Candid can offer you today
Learn more about GrantSpace's live and on-demand trainings
Learn more about the Funding Information Network
Learn more about our eBooks lending program

 

Drive Commitment and Change With 'Moments'

July 18, 2019

Ripple-effectOrganizations are always on the lookout for strategies that can help them engage supporters or build their movements. When I interact with an organization or cause that is seeking to build a constituency, I like to ask two questions:

  1. What’s the next milestone you are working toward?
  2. What are you doing right now to increase your supporter base in advance of that milestone? 

A few definitions here will be helpful:

  • A milestone is an incremental achievement that leads to a "moment" within a movement. The milestone Is achieved by the community working together.
  • A moment is a one-time (or short-term) convergence of actions, informal or organized, that is fueled by cultural, political, and/or social events leading to a surge of individual participation and self-organizing by supporters.
  • An issue or cause is an existing state of affairs (societal, environmental, political) recognized by society as contrary to its values but that can be improved by people working together and taking advantage of community resources.

As a leader of a mission-driven organization, your work is to break new ground for your issue or cause. You’re the visionary always on the lookout for that movement-altering moment when public awareness, supporter engagement, and a broader narrative of progress come together to create progress.

Moments are incredibly powerful in the life of an issue or cause -- and for the supporters and people you serve. They’re the catalysts that drive your colleagues and supporters to commit themselves to the work every day, and they represent an enormous opportunity to strengthen your issue’s relevance to and resonance with both loyal and as-yet-unidentified supporters.

After I've gotten answers to my first two questions above, I usually move on to another set of questions. To design an effective moment, leaders of mission-driven organizations and movements need to get clarity on the following:

  1. Is your current supporter base loyal enough (and have you prepared them well enough) to help your issue by spreading a new narrative that brings others to the cause/movement?Who are the people who will be energized by your next moment, and how can you inspire them to be a voice and recruiter for your issue or cause?
  2. Typically, the only thing loyal and potential supporters have in common is an interest in your issue. And their awareness of what to do and how to do it, as well as their willingness to take action, almost always Is a function of their prior involvement with the issue or cause. This means you need to create different approaches for different audiences.

With that in mind, here are a couple of suggestions:

Maximize affinity and loyalty of current supporters

The goal here is to deepen the connection of your current supporters to your issue or cause by inspiring them to act. The idea, always, is action fuels commitment.

Step 1. Announce the upcoming milestone.

Step 2. Ask your current supporters for their help in reaching the milestone and share with them educational resources, actions they can take, and opportunities to develop DIY events and programs that will inspire and encourage others to support your issue/cause.

Step 3. Be sure to build in reporting and recognition mechanisms.

Here’s an example of an education-and-action pathway for your current supporters:

Table 1.1: Education-and-Action Pathway

Audience Goals Sample Actions Rationale
Current supporters Create a sense of belonging Supporter shares own "Why I believe" narrative about the issue Taking an action, especially if it involves sharing a personal story, makes a person feel more connected to an issue or cause

 

Increase understanding Supporter performs 3-4 CTAs that enhance his/her belief narrative (e.g., post on social media, attend event) The more actions a supporter takes, the deeper his/her understanding of the issue/cause

 

Inspire further action Supporter recruits peer/friend to issue/ cause and initiates conversation about it

 

Creates excitement and reinforces engagement when others respond positively to the same belief narrative

 

Table 1.2: Key Elements of Pathway

Action → Response → Action → Response →
Initiates pathway (e.g., sign a pledge or petition) Individual receives 3-5 automated emails with links to organized content (e.g., video, quiz, link to individualized achievement tracking) Individual completes call-to-action (e.g., “Bring one new person into the movement”) Those who complete CTA are publicly recognized and become part of the movement (e.g., showcase their picture/story)

 

Focus on new audiences already aligned with milestone

Recruiting new supporters to an issue/cause requires a different approach.

Step 1. Use targeted outreach to identify individuals who are already aligned with the upcoming milestone.

Step 2. Design an engagement program that inspires these micro-influencers to recruit their peers to the issue/cause. The program should incorporate a variety of tactics, from online display ads to face-to-face recruitment at programs and events that members of the targeted audience are likely to attend.

Step 3. Provide your micro-influencers with a digital environment (e.g., password-protected collection of online resources) specifically designed to engage them. Include an opt-in mechanism for those who want to pursue more intensive engagement.

Moments reinforce belief and drive active commitment

I’ve said this before: reinforcement of belief is a powerful factor in deepening an individual's involvement in an issue or cause and in creating a powerful sense of identity among like-minded people. Moments serve these purposes by demonstrably raising awareness of an issue among the public and inspiring some of them to act. By encouraging your supporters to achieve well-defined milestones, your organization will be advancing its issue or cause and helping to shape public discourse around the issue or cause.

But, remember: engaging supporters in your issue or cause should be your primary objective, while Increasing support for your organization should be a secondary goal. If supporters are passionate about an issue or cause, they will find -- and support -- the organizations that are most effective at advancing that issue or cause.

When organizations keep their issue or cause front and center and focus on moving it forward, moment by moment, good things inevitably follow.

Headshot_derrick_feldmann_2015Derrick Feldmann (@derrickfeldmann) is the author of Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change, the founder of the Millennial Impact Project, and lead researcher at Cause and Social Influence.

Open Educational Resources: A Viable Alternative in a Changing Landscape

July 17, 2019

Online_texbooksIn May, two of the textbook market's biggest publishers, Cengage and McGraw-Hill Education, announced plans to merge. The merger will lead to the formation of a new company, McGraw Hill, with a market cap of $8.5 billion, rivaling publishing giant Pearson for dominance of the textbook market. Currently, a mere five publishers control more than 80 percent of that market, and the creation of McGraw Hill will further reduce competition.

With textbook prices rising year after year, a merger of this magnitude could spell disaster for students. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, textbook prices increased 88 percent between 2006 and 2016. Given the growing monopolization of the textbook market, alternative modes of access such as open educational resources are becoming an urgent priority for schools and students across the country.

Inclusive Access: Part of the Problem

As textbook publishers have seen sales of their print materials decline, they have turned to a new subscription-based model called "inclusive access," in which students pay a flat fee to access educational materials. Inclusive access has been likened to the streaming model increasingly popular in other media, including movies (Netflix) and music (Apple Music). The consumer is no longer purchasing a product but rather digital access to a product for a set period of time.

Publishers tout two major benefits of the inclusive-access model. The first is its ability to provide students with access to educational materials on the first day of class. In the traditional model, students often are forced — due to economic pressures — to wait until after they've received their financial aid packages to order physical textbooks. Inclusive access sidesteps this problem by incorporating the charge as a course fee via the school's billing system.

The second benefit, according to publishers, is that it delivers a "win" for affordability. Students pay a single per-semester fee ranging between $100 and $150 (depending on the publisher). In theory, the fee covers all educational materials used by the student. While the cost may seem reasonable, at least initially, that reasonableness rests on the assumption that instructors will only use materials available through the inclusive access system. If, however, an instructor decides to exercise her academic freedom and chooses a text outside a publisher's inclusive access catalog, an additional financial burden is placed on her students. One can easily imagine a scenario where two of a student's four classes are "inclusive access" and the other two are not, requiring the student to pay for additional texts on top of the per-semester inclusive access fee.

Cengage recently introduced Cengage Unlimited, a platform dedicated to inclusive access that charges $119.99 a semester for access to Cengage's digitized back-catalog. In 2018, McGraw-Hill Education significantly expanded the implementation of its own inclusive-access model. If past trends are any indicator, the price tag associated with both catalogs will increase dramatically post-merger.

The inclusive-access model raises not only pricing concerns but also concerns with respect to student data and privacy. As publishers gravitate toward the model, they are beginning to collect large amounts of data and analytics about students. Indeed, groups like the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) have raised concerns that this data collection — which can include a student's physical location, study habits, and data related to individual learning outcomes — poses privacy risks.

Open Educational Resources: A Viable Alternative?

There is a better alternative. Open educational resources (OER) are freely licensed materials that reside in the public domain and can include textbooks, full courses, tests, software, and more. As the materials are free to use and can be accessed at any time, there is no concern about students not having access on the first day of class. And because the materials can be accessed free of charge, OER delivers on the promise of affordability.

Even better, OER seems to improve student outcomes, with studies attributing a more than 12 percent increase in grades for Pell-eligible students who use open educational resources. When coupled with the fact that 17 percent of underrepresented minority students indicate that the cost of educational materials has forced them to withdraw from a course, OER is the right choice at the right time for today's college students.

With the recently announced merger between two of the largest textbook publishers in the country, concern is growing that prices on all materials provided by publishers, including inclusive access materials, will rise. But if policy makers, educational institutions, and faculty take steps to invest time and money into the creation of high-quality OER, the grip that publishers have on educational materials will weaken. In turn, a higher OER adoption rate will render mergers and the worry about potential price hikes increasingly irrelevant.

Philanthropy can play a role in supporting the expansion of OER and lowering the costs of textbooks. By investing in the field, foundations and other donors can help provide students with access to educational materials and spur their academic success. Foundations such as the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, and the Michelson 20MM Foundation are just a few examples of philanthropies that have funded the growth of OER in recent decades. The field is ripe with opportunity for additional leadership.

Headshot_ryan_Erickson_Kulas_philantopicRyan Erickson-Kulas is program officer of open educational resources at the Michelson 20MM Foundation.

Stop Differentiating Between Program and Administrative Support

July 15, 2019

Siegel_family_endowment_workforceAs the director of special projects at Siegel Family Endowment, I spend a lot of time talking to folks in the philanthropic sector about their approaches to funding. It's an opportunity to get in the weeds with others about their strategic priorities and to build an understanding of innovation and best practices in the field.

And for years now, I've heard funder after funder draw the same false distinction between supporting an organization's administrative costs and its program costs.

There's one thing they're ignoring when they make this kind of distinction: You can't have one without the other.

If there's a single prerequisite for running an effective program, it's having the right administrative structures in place to do so. HR, compliance, reporting, fundraising, finance, IT —  they're all critical factors in determining whether a program ultimately succeeds or fails.

Designating funding as programmatic merely forces nonprofits to be cheap, not prudent. With the majority of funding supporting programmatic work instead of the infrastructure needed to make such work possible, nonprofits are often forced to skimp on the very things that can ensure the efficacy and sustainability of their work.

Unfortunately, there's no magic formula that funders can use when deciding how their grants should be allocated. If they want to be nimble and responsive, they need, instead, to be clear in their expectations and receptive to an organization's changing needs. Big administrative needs (like new software purchases or upgrading office space) are unlikely to be an annual expense,  but when they are needed, the impact on an organization's budget — and programmatic work — tends to be outsized.

My big recommendation for funders? Start by asking grantees where they have had to cut corners. An organization's long-term success is a function of the health of the infrastructure that makes its work possible in the first place, and we as funders owe it to our grantees to cultivate a relationship with them that’s honest, open, and bi-directional.

Grantmakers have an opportunity in 2019 to shift their thinking on how responsible, responsive funding works. Let's help our grantees be as effective as they can be by investing in every aspect of their work and not just cherry-picking the things that appeal to us.

Headshot_jessica_johansen_siegel_familyJessica Johansen is director of special projects at Siegel Family Endowment. A version of this post originally appeared on the SFE website.

'College Means Hope': A Path Forward for the Justice-Involved

July 12, 2019

Michelson_20MM_smart_justice"Former gang members make incredible students. The same skills that made me a good drug-dealer — resiliency, hustle, determination — I now use on campus to succeed in school," Jesse Fernandez tells the audience attending our panel discussion at this year's Gang Prevention and Intervention Conference in Long Beach.

I was on stage with Jesse as co-moderator for the first education-focused panel in the conference's history. (The Michelson 20MM Foundation convened the panel, tapping Jesse, Taffany Lim of California State University, Los Angeles, and Brittany Morton of Homeboy Industries to share their experiences.) Only 25, he has come a long way from the gang life he once knew. Today, he interns for Homeboy Industries, helping other students on their path to college, has finished an associate's program in Los Angeles, and has studied abroad at Oxford University. He may not look like a typical college student, but he speaks with the certainty and eloquence of someone who has been in school for years.

"College means hope. It means understanding your identity. For me, it was learning about my indigenous heritage, what it means to be Chicano, and how my community has been affected by violence and loss."

I first met Jesse over a lunch of chilaquiles (with salsa verde) and agua fresca (Angela's Green Potion is a "do not miss") at Homegirl Café, an L.A. staple since the 1990s. The café is run by former gang members and offers a safe space for people coming out of prison, providing many of them with their first job, creating a pipeline to sustainable employment. It's so popular that Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and other politicians on the national stage have stopped in for a bite while in town.

Jesse is one of thousands of justice-involved students attending college in California. The exact number is unknown, as public colleges in the state do not require the disclosure of a criminal history. Many students choose to self-identify in order to take advantage of resources specific to the justice-involved population. Others, says Morton, academic program coordinator for Homeboy, are still trying to overcome the perceived "stigma" of having been incarcerated.

"Imagine getting released from prison after twenty-plus years on the inside, and you've never used a computer before. Then you get to campus, and every form, assignment, and application is online. It's intimidating for people and there is a lot of shame connected to these experiences."

It's estimated that 53 percent of formerly incarcerated people have a high school diploma or GED, yet fewer than 5 percent have completed college (Vera Institute of Justice). Persistence in postsecondary education is fraught with challenges, especially for non-traditional students. The typical formerly incarcerated person has served more than two years in prison, has at least one minor child, and is over the age of 30. In the year after their release, they earn around $9,000 in wages. A year of community college in California costs around $10,000, putting postsecondary opportunities squarely out of reach for most people who have served time.

Making a Difference

That's where peer-led organizations like Homeboy Industries, Project Rebound, and Underground Scholars come into play. All three not only provide a physical space and financial resources to help justice-involved students graduate, they also cultivate a sense of belonging and deserving that stretches far beyond campus.

"The first thing people think when they hear about college opportunities for 'felons' is, why?" says Morton. "Why waste your resources on people who have messed up time and time again. Why focus on college when people with a criminal record can't even find jobs or stable housing. Why? My response is always, why not? Why not give people who have been let down by our education system a first chance at success? Why not help them become leaders, change-makers, peer mentors. Why not give them a sense of hope that they can strive higher and make an impact."

What's more, the programs have proven to be successful — for students, colleges, and even for taxpayers. Initial outcomes data demonstrates that programs for justice-involved students help keep students enrolled, out of incarceration, and on a path to economic stability. They also save money. For every $1 invested in correctional education, there is a resulting $4 to $5 return in avoided costs from reduced recidivism and increased employment.

While California has led the country in providing resources to justice-involved students, we still have a long way to go. Recent legislative efforts in Sacramento have helped catalyze a new push for expanded postsecondary opportunities. If enacted by the state legislature, the Smart Justice Student Fund would provide an additional $25 million to community colleges in support of justice-involved students both on campus and in prison.

This winter, Jesse Fernandez will be continuing his education at the University of California, Berkeley, where he hopes to major in Chicano Studies. He says he has already connected with other students on campus who were formerly incarcerated — and that has made it "easier to imagine the day-to-day of being a full-time college student at a place like Berkeley."

In a few years, Jesse will be part of a new generation of justice-impacted college students who strive to become leaders and visionaries in the fight for criminal justice reform in the United States. The first step is helping the public understand that people who are incarcerated deserve opportunities to better themselves above and beyond the limitations and barriers our systems have placed on them.

Headshot_allison_berger_philantopicAllison Berger is program officer for the Michelson 20MM Foundation's Smart Justice program.

[Review] The Business of Changing the World: How Billionaires, Tech Disrupters, and Social Entrepreneurs Are Transforming the Global Aid Industry

July 10, 2019

Gone are the days when major donor governments and multilateral agencies poured large sums into international development projects that were evaluated mainly by the level of the donors' generosity. As Raj Kumar explains in The Business of Changing the World: How Billionaires, Tech Disrupters, and Social Entrepreneurs Are Transforming the Global Aid Industry, the foreign aid industry, in the United States and elsewhere, is undergoing a huge transformation: once dominated by a handful of players, the sector is being reinvented as a dynamic marketplace hungry for cost-efficient, evidence-based solutions.

Tbcw-book-coverAs the co-founder of Devex, a social enterprise and media platform for the global development community, Kumar has a unique perspective on the emerging trends, key players, and new frameworks and philosophies that are shaping the development sector. And as he sees it, the sector is undergoing three fundamental changes: first, an opening up to diverse participants; second, a shift from a wholesale to a retail model of aid; and third, a growing focus on results-oriented, evidence-based strategies.

According to Kumar, the diversification of participants and, consequently, of strategies, both characterizes and is contributing to the growing success of this new era of aid. Prior to the twenty-first century, the sector was dominated by large agencies such as USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) and the World Bank functioning as an oligopsony in which aid strategies were relatively homogeneous and any latitude to innovate was limited. Thanks in part to the wealth accumulated by tech billionaires such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, however, that is changing and the sector today operates and is informed by a much broader range of perspectives.

One result of the influx of tech dollars and expertise into the sector has been a demand for results, often in the form of a measurable return on those investments. But despite the broader diversity of approaches, failure is still part and parcel of the field, and Kumar offers some insights into why. An example he cites repeatedly is Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Initiative, which never fully delivered on its thesis that providing laptops to children in the developing world would go a long way to closing education gaps. As Kumar notes, past evaluations of the program have found that laptops did not do much to improve children's learning — in part because the initiative failed to adequately train teachers or develop curricula tailored to computer-based learning — and he uses the example to highlight the importance of pilot-testing projects to determine their efficacy before implementing them at scale.

Indeed, while veteran development hands may commend Negroponte for his ambition and good intentions, a new generation of development professionals is more interested in setting goals by which a project's success (or failure) can be measured and conducting rigorous evaluation to determine whether it meets those goals. In a resource-constrained world, Kumar argues, such an approach is the best way for aid groups and their funders to avoid the opportunity costs of a failed project and harness their limited funds for maximum impact.

Another important change in the sector is the shift away from the traditional decision-making model in which decisions were made by well-compensated individuals embedded in institutions at a significant remove from the people in need of help. In the new world of aid, writes Kumar, donors and aid experts have to let go of the mindset that they know best, step back, and listen to the intended beneficiaries about how that aid should be put to use. "Only by asking...questions, listening carefully, watching how people actually behave and react in the real world, and then designing programs to address those realities," he writes, "will we be able to get the kind of results we want."

That also means that aid programs need to incorporate behavioral science- and human psychology-based approaches to ensure that the funded intervention will be both widely adopted and effective. In support of his argument, Kumar cites the example of an insecticide-treated mosquito net distribution effort. While a standard cost-benefit analysis most likely would conclude that such nets are a reasonable and cost-effective intervention, aid groups that took the time to interview the intended beneficiaries soon learned that mosquito nets distributed through previous campaigns were hardly ever used because they are too hot to sleep under and are not easy to set up. By doing a better job of focusing on "people, not widgets," aid groups stand a much better chance of ensuring that projects are executed efficiently and goals are met.

In addition to these broad trends and themes, Kumar looks at the ways in which the emerging aid industry has embraced a more diverse cast of players — including so-called social enterprises, which he defines as businesses "established with the sole purpose of meeting an important social need [that create] shared value for all those involved — the producers, the organization, customers, and the broader society." From Hello Tractor, an app modeled on Uber that connects Nigerian farmers who are not fully utilizing their tractors to farmers in need of a tractor, to microfinance platform Kiva, Kumar illustrates how social entrepreneurs are transforming the aid sector with technology and, crucially, a behavioral-science mindset, creating solutions that address the specific needs of a specific target population in real time.

While it's perhaps unrealistic to expect all businesses to operate with the sole intention of meeting a social need, Kumar argues that such enterprises could pave the way for more businesses to adopt the idea of shared value, creating what the World Economic Forum has called a "fourth sector." One way for corporations to become more socially responsible is to ignore the notion that people at the "bottom of the pyramid" (a phrase coined by C.K. Prahalad in his 2004 book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid) can never function as a market. Instead, companies need to embrace the idea that the vast number of people who fall into that category are more than enough to create aggregate demand — and a profit — for any business and create products and services specifically for the BoP.

Kumar also examines the emergence of "retail" aid, as seen in the growing popularity of crowdfunding sites like Kiva and direct cash transfers, and notes that "frictionless" digital technologies are putting increasing pressure on "wholesale" models of aid to incorporate local input, monitor results continually, make course corrections as needed, and ensure that projects are self-sustaining over time. Such changes go hand-in-hand with "a new ethos" of what Kumar calls "open source aid" — organizational cultures that embrace the humility required to share results (including failures), openly and in the spirit of collective learning.

Despite the credit he gives social entrepreneurs and businesses for embracing market solutions, Kumar recognizes that systemic problems do not always lend themselves to a quick market or technological fix. One organization that seems to understand that is Teach for All, a global network of independent, locally led and governed partner organizations that has trained more than sixty-five hundred individuals to serve as educators in their communities. As he explains, if Teach for All's progress in transforming local educational systems has been slower and less quantifiable than might be the case with a more disruptive Silicon Valley solution, its approach is better suited to the "complex, emotionally fraught, politicized [education] system" in most countries. In other words, where market-based solutions may succeed in reducing complexity, they often fail to address many of the fundamental issues responsible for a system's underperformance.

Like education, extreme poverty is a challenge far too complex to be solved by a simple market-based solution. Today, seven hundred and forty-six million people around the world live in extreme poverty (defined as living on less than $2 a day), and, from conflict situations to "extractive institutions," Kumar points to the many systemic factors perpetuating the problem. So, if market-based solutions are unlikely to solve the problem, what will? Kumar thinks the answer lies in embracing a results-based approach to aid delivery, including the collection of real-time data that enables aid groups to track and disseminate the successes (and failures) of their interventions and drive awareness of and support to those deserving of more attention; and demanding that billionaire donors be held accountable for the support they provide. Good intentions and "giving pledges" are not enough in the twenty-first century, he writes; instead, we must do everything in our power to ensure that the resources provided by billionaire philanthropists produce real, meaningful results.

Kumar notes that even if foreign aid succeeded in eradicating extreme poverty in a given country, in most cases it would still leave 3 percent of that country's population living below the poverty line. While some readers might find this to be an oddly pessimistic note on which to end the book (coming as it does on the book's second-to-last page), it's more a case of Kumar wanting to highlight the urgent need for efficiency and effectiveness in aid delivery. Simply put, we cannot afford to waste resources on "best" guesses, insufficiently evaluated initiatives, and serial failures. The aid community, donors as well as those on the front lines, must listen to and engage with those they seek to serve so as to better understand the problem, think outside the box, and harness the power of data to produce desperately needed results. As Kumar reminds us, it is not enough to do good; it needs to be done well.

Avi Bond is a Knowledge Services intern at Candid.

 

An Engaged Board Is a Fundraising Machine 

July 03, 2019

Table-clipart-board-director-11Is your board pulling its weight in terms of fundraising? An active, engaged board can be a huge difference-maker for a nonprofit. We choose board members, after all, for their skills, connections, and potential to boost fundraising revenue — and they usually will, as long as we make an effort to encourage them to put those skills and connections to work.

Here are a few tips to help you do that:

Boost your board's fundraising capacity. You selected your board members for their knowledge, acumen, and abilities, but you still need to familiarize them with your brand, help them engage with your team, and make sure they're aware of your organizational needs and fundraising plans. The best way to do that is by boosting their engagement with staff and distributing tasks based on their specific interests and abilities.

Get and stay connected. If you're only seeing your board members during board meetings, you are missing out on much of what they have to offer. Be sure to invite board members to any community events you hold or workshops you host. An invitation to tour your facility or join you for an on-site visit where they can meet your volunteers and clients also is a good idea. Not only will it help them feel more connected to the organization, it will give them opportunities to network in the community as well as material for stories they can share in support of the organization.

While not every member of your board will be willing or able to take advantage of every invitation, many will, and doing so will help strengthen their rapport with each other and your work. Updating them on a regular basis about your work, your successes, and your ongoing funding needs also will help them feel like they are connected and an integral part of the overall effort.

Not everyone wants to ask for funds. You're likely to discover that some board members are far better at asking for donations or gifts on your behalf than others. Not everyone on your board has the same skill set (that's a good thing), and board members who are reluctant to solicit others for donations or gifts (whatever their reason) should be able to contribute in other ways. Remember the classic "Cycle of Fundraising." Being able to identify and cultivate potential patrons and supporters, thank current donors, and involve all your donors more deeply in your work are all key to successful board fundraising.

Stewardship improves your bottom line. If you're already bringing in plenty of funds but don't seem able to effectively support all the initiatives you've launched or dream about, the problem might lie in your inability to retain donors over time. One or more board members who focus on stewardship and helping donors feel connected to your organizational outcomes can go a long way to ensuring your organization’s sustainability without you needing to raise additional dollars from new donors in a neverending cycle. Both sides of the equation — effective fundraising and donor stewardship — ultimately drive your organization's ability to fulfill its mission.

Stock your board with experts. In the twenty-first century, you need to embrace and model diversity by putting people on the board of different ages, from different backgrounds (professional and personal), and with different expertise. I can't overstate how important this is to board fundraising, as it will give your organization more skills, connections, and perspectives to leverage and draw on. Chances are pretty good that the three lawyers you were considering for the board all share the same connections, while the advertising pro probably has a completely different group of colleagues and acquaintances to draw on when it comes to fundraising and networking.

Make it easy. If you know you're going to need your board's help on a specific campaign or for a specific event, you should let them know well in advance. If asking for board assistance is left to the last minute, your board members are unlikely to have enough time to help. (They're busy people, which is why they're on your board.) If your "ask" is tied to a specific need, project, or time of year, write up the main talking points for board members to refer to when they are talking with potential donors or supporters. You can also pre-draft an email that they can personalize to their own liking but that includes everything about your organization you'd like them to share with their networks. Lastly, images of the people and community you serve, figures and statistics that underscore your good work, and other talking points will make it easier for your board members to articulate exactly what its your organization does and why it's so important.

Your board plays — or should play — a critical role in your organization’s fundraising success. If it doesn't, get them engaged and actively working for you now. You’ll see a difference in your organization's capacity to serve its target population almost immediately. Good luck!

Headshot_jeb_bannerJeb Banner is the founder and CEO of Boardable, a nonprofit board management software provider, as well as two nonprofits, The Speak Easy and Musical Family Tree. He also serves as a board member of United Way of Central Indiana and ProAct Indy.

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (June 2018)

July 01, 2019

Is it us, or does chronological time seem to be accelerating? Before the first half of 2019 becomes a distant memory, take a few minutes to check out some of the most popular posts on the blog in June. And remember: You're not getting older, you're gaining wisdom.

Interested in contributing to PND or PhilanTopic? We'd love to hear from you. Drop us a note at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Three Shifts Philanthropy Needs to Make to Better Design and Evaluate Social Change

June 28, 2019

Chalk-board-paradigm-shiftGood strategy-making and evaluation sit at the heart of philanthropy. Yet as a sector, we continue to struggle with how to design strategies, how to understand our impact, and how to use that understanding to drive stronger strategies. While we've made progress in using theories of change, logic models, indicators, and various types of evaluations in our work, we are often still stuck in more traditional, linear paradigms of thinking that do not lend themselves to the complex, ever-changing contexts in which we work.

I believe there are three key shifts that philanthropy needs to make to more fully embrace a complexity-friendly approach to designing and evaluating social change:

From...   To....
Projects Systems
Results Hypotheses
Planning Learning

From Projects to Systems: Most foundation staff tend to think of their work in terms of programs, projects, or even specific grants. There is value in opening up the aperture and examining the whole system, with all its interconnected components.

At the Democracy Fund, we created elaborate "systems maps" to explore the connections and dynamics that characterize the systems we seek to influence and created strategies that utilize specific "leverage points" in the system. While evaluating the impact of our strategies, we look not only at indicators of program impact but also at a set of "system impact indicators" that track system-level variables.

For instance, while our Elections program tracks how many jurisdictions are adopting a particular tool (program impact), it also tracks how voter confidence in elections is shifting overall (system impact). The point is not to attribute causality, but rather to situate and understand our impact in the broader context of how systemic variables are moving. (To learn more about taking a systems and complexity approach to evaluation, check out Evaluating Complexity.)

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Collaboration Versus Competition: Funders Should Shift Their Giving Models to Better Support Families

June 25, 2019

Familia_adelantePicture this: In the New York City borough of the Bronx, Marlena and Jose Reyes had worked hard to provide for their family of four, often getting up before the sun rose to feed and get their children off to school before heading out to work. But their family hit hard times when Jose was injured on the job. The medical bills quickly added up, and, lacking disability coverage, he began to worry his family wouldn't be able to make ends meet. Soon, the family fell into financial crisis, and the threat of eviction became a very real and frightening possibility.

Fortunately, Marlena learned about a service provider collaborative in the community called Familia Adelante that could help.

Stories like those of the Reyeses are common inside the walls of Familia Adelante, which connects families with a range of services, from health care to educational support to job training, all in a single location.

Comprised of three organizations — Mercy Center, the Fiver Children's Foundation, and the Qualitas of Life Foundation —as well as Tanya Valle, a mindfulness practitioner, Familia Adelante helps low-income families access services based on goals they set with the help of a coach. Each of the three agencies focuses on its area of expertise, and together they meet regularly to evaluate families' progress. In the situation in which the Reyes family found itself, Familia Adelante was able to help the Reyeses prioritize their short-term needs, establish a plan to get out of debt, and, because the organization has access to a full range of basic-need services, keep their home and maintain family stability.

Unfortunately, for many families and service providers, the reality is much different. Rather than collaborating, many nonprofits compete fiercely with other nonprofits for resources. With a limited amount of charitable dollars available, nonprofits tend to view each other as competitors rather than as allies working toward a common goal. It's a model that hurts nonprofits — and the people they are trying to serve.

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Women's Movements Hold the Key to Gender Equality — So Why Aren't Donors Funding Them?

June 21, 2019

Strong_womanAt the Women Deliver conference in early June, the Canadian government announced that it was pledging $300 million to the Equality Fund to advance women's rights worldwide. The announcement was especially exciting because the fund is committed to supporting feminist movements and their advocacy work — an unusual focus for an international development initiative.

Over the last two decades, U.S. foundations and the international development community have dramatically increased funding for women and girls in the Global South. Yet despite these outlays — avowedly dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls — evidence has shown that most funding going to women's empowerment is not only ineffective but actually harmful.

The typical thinking goes something like this: Empower a woman in the Global South with the means to generate her own income and prevent unwanted pregnancy, and she will invest in the health and education of her children and family, ending the vicious cycle of poverty and generating an outsized return on investment. This approach focuses on the individual woman or girl. Very little, if any, support goes to feminist organizations and movements. The missing link is the advocacy efforts of feminist groups, which are dedicated to changing the very structures that perpetuate inequality and oppression.

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Donor Dollars Into Dividends: The Past, Present, and Future of Nonprofits Aiding the Private Sector

June 20, 2019

TreeForkIllustrationBleeding plant-based burgers were last month’s biggest financial news. Beyond Meat had the most successful initial public offering of any startup since the 2008 crash, and Impossible Foods raised $300 million in venture capital. Both burgers can hold their own in the meat aisle or a fast food restaurant.

Clearly, there's a lot of money to be made by making meat without animals. So why are nonprofits spending donor dollars to support the industry?

It's no secret that nonprofits have a strained relationship with the private sector. All too often, it falls on us to clean up the messes businesses make — or to stop them from making those same messes again.

But when there's an urgent need for new entrants to transform an industry, nonprofits can play a pivotal role in making that transition happen — and happen fast.

Consider the industry producing antiretroviral drugs (ARV) for HIV. When the lifesaving treatment was first invented, it was produced in small quantities and sold for $10,000 to $15,000 a year. Most patients, especially those in AIDS-ravaged Africa, literally couldn't afford to survive.

To ensure that everyone could access treatment, activists knew they would need a pharmaceutical industry that could make up for low margins by selling in huge volumes. They encouraged new entrants, pressured incumbent companies, brokered purchase agreements, and funded scientific research. Prices dropped a hundredfold in less than a decade.

Today, incumbent energy producers are making fat profits by pushing us to the brink of climate disaster. Producing clean, renewable energy will be an uphill battle as long as existing infrastructure, government policies, and economies of scale make fossil fuels cheap and convenient.

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5 Tips for Giving Great Design Feedback

June 19, 2019

Feedback2Receiving feedback and iterating on creative work is a huge part of what we do every day at Constructive. Whether we're conducting an internal review with our designers and art directors, or discussing work with clients, collaboration is crucial to improving our work.

That said, it's easy to go through the motions without thinking critically about how to optimize the delivery of feedback when deadlines are approaching, budgets are tight, and multiple projects are being juggled. In my role as a project manager, I've sat in countless meetings to review feedback and have seen teams (ours and our clients) use different tactics to deliver that feedback, with varying degrees of success. What I've learned from the experience is that the difference between good and bad feedback can have a real impact on the overall success of a project and, therefore, is worth paying attention to. In that spirit, I'd like to share a few tips on how you can give great design feedback.

How to Give Great Design Feedback

1. Ask questions. A successful design process is by definition collaborative, and asking thoughtful questions only serves to strengthen that process. By posing questions rather than sending the design team a list of specific changes it needs to make, a client can open up lines of communication, encourage further discussion, and ensure that assumptions (false or otherwise) aren't inadvertently baked into the cake. Ultimately, a design team looks to its clients for their expertise in their particular issue area, and often it will learn more about a client's (and the client's audiences') needs when the client questions its design choices and a healthy conversation ensues.

2. Communicate problems, not solutions. It can be tempting to review a design and propose solutions to things you don't think are working. A better approach is to communicate what the problem is and why the said design decision is problematic. For example, if you don't like the placement of a newsletter call-to-action and want to see it moved to another page, telling us why you think your website visitors are more likely to sign up for your newsletter when engaged with another content type (news updates vs. insights, for example) will give us more insight about your audience and help us offer a better solution. By describing the problem, you're equipping the design team with information needed to explore other solutions, rather than spoon-feeding the team a solution that might not be the best one.

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Creating a Donor Stewardship Plan: 3 Best Practices

June 17, 2019

Istockphoto-500174600-612x612A common fundraising mistake made by many nonprofits is to put so much emphasis on acquiring new donors that they forget to pay attention to the donors they already have.

Do not allow donor stewardship — the process by which an organization builds strong, healthy relationships with existing donors long after their initial donations have been received — to become an afterthought. Effective donor stewardship is all about turning first-time donors into loyal, recurring donors and is essential to keeping your donor retention rate where it should be.

Sounds simple. And it is, if you keep these best practices in mind as you sit down to develop a donor stewardship strategy:

  1. Understand and use your donor data effectively.
  2. Make it easy for your donors to leverage the impact of their gifts.
  3. Publicly thank your donors for all they do.

Let's take a closer look:

1. Understand and use your donor data. Donor data can be overwhelming and cause lots of people lots of stress if it isn't collected regularly and with an eye to how it is going to be used. But when done properly, data analytics can help you understand who your donors are, when they are most likely to give, and what kind of appeal they are most likely to respond to.

Your data should do three things:

  • Provide you with basic knowledge about your donors (e.g., name, age, location, marital status, profession, the things that excite them about your organization, other organizations they support, etc.)
  • Capture their giving/communications preferences (e.g., preferred donation amount/range, preferred giving frequency, preferred communications channels/frequency, etc.).
  • Give you an idea of their capacity to give (e.g., net worth)

(To learn more about donor analytics and the importance of using donor data properly, see our prievous post. And to learn more about what motivates giving behavior and how you can use that knowledge to increase your donor retention, check out this study from OneCause.)

Knowing who your donors are is the first step in cultivating strong, lasting donor relationships and allows you to meet them on their terms.

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Youth Apprenticeship: Accelerating a Path to College and Career Success 

June 13, 2019

MachineapprenticeWe seem to have reached a consensus that, in today's economy, it's nearly impossible to secure a quality job and get on the path to economic stability without postsecondary education. But the reality of student loan debt and surveys which show college graduates don’t feel prepared for their career of choice challenges the narrative that a successful future is intrinsically linked to a college degree.

Reality is also hitting employers' bottom lines as businesses of all sizes and in a variety of fields, including information technology, manufacturing, finance, and healthcare, struggle to fill good-paying positions. The pipeline that used to lead young people through high school and, ultimately, to the skills needed to secure those jobs is broken — and it might not have ever worked equitably, anyway.

It's clear our country needs additional, widely accessible postsecondary options that provide young people with the foundational skills, experiences, and credentials they need to thrive in a rapidly changing economy.

K-12 systems, institutions of higher education, and industries alike have been searching for solutions that reflect the current and future state of work, with little success. For decades, philanthropy has been investing to improve educational outcomes and college access, and it, too, recognizes that new approaches are needed, and fast.

That's why we funded the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship (PAYA), a multi-stakeholder New America-led initiative to promote more equitable and sustainable pathways to economic mobility. PAYA aims to do this by partnering with educators and employers to build more scalable long-term solutions that have been proven to help youth acquire the skills they need to navigate the rapidly changing world of work.

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The Essential Guide to Modernizing Your Fundraising

June 11, 2019

NonProfit-Online-FundraisingIf you've been feeling stuck with fundraising strategies that don't quite seem to cut it anymore, you're not alone. Just as our technologies require periodic updates, so, too, do our broader fundraising strategies.

Nonprofit organizations of all sizes generally run a tight ship. Insufficient budgets and high-intensity campaigns mean that most nonprofits like to stick with what has worked in the past. But a lot can change, relatively quickly, in the fundraising world.

For example, look at telethons or cold calling; they were once reliable fundraising tactics for organizations of all kinds. But today, millennial and Gen Z donors tend to not even bother answering calls from unknown numbers, and why should they? Non-urgent communication has almost completely shifted to email and text messaging.

The point? Your nonprofit's fundraising strategies have to keep pace with constantly changing technologies and donor preferences — even when the prospect of investing precious time and resources in new tools is enough to ruin your week.

At DNL OmniMedia, we help nonprofits make the most of their digital assets. Regardless of which part of your fundraising strategy could use an upgrade, there are always steps your organization can take to improve its ability to both raise money and engage donors. And sometimes the steps are simple.

Let's take a closer look at some of them.

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Advancing Child Welfare's New Imperative: Ensuring a Stable, Loving Home for Every Child

June 10, 2019

HLT01819During the early 2000s, the number of international adoptions reached unprecedented levels. At the same time, a number of high-profile celebrities adopted children born overseas, raising the visibility of a pathway that has provided loving, permanent homes to thousands of children since the 1950s.

In the years since, international adoption numbers have fallen
82 percent, with just 4,059 children joining families in the United States in 2018, according to a U.S. State Department report.

A host of complex factors have contributed to the decline. These range from the implementation of initiatives to help children remain with their birth families and increased domestic adoption in some countries, to changes in adoptive family eligibility in others. Some countries have closed their international adoption programs due to concerns about unethical practices — or for reasons of politics. In many cases, however, the process has simply become too difficult or costly for families seeking to adopt a child from overseas.

For children waiting for families, this is a devastating trend.

Across the globe, millions of children are growing up in overcrowded, underfunded orphanages. Many have never experienced the love and nurturing care of a devoted parent or caregiver. And many have special medical or developmental needs — needs that too often go unmet.

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5 Questions for...Tanya Coke, Director, Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice, Ford Foundation

June 05, 2019

Tanya Coke has been involved in issues of criminal justice, mass incarceration, and immigration for more than thirty years. First as a researcher at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, then as a trial attorney in the Legal Aid Society‘s Federal Defender Division, and now as director of Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice at the Ford Foundation, Coke has been actively engaged in public interest law and social justice issues and, at Ford, leads a team focused on harnessing the resources and commitment needed to combat inequality based on gender, race, class, disability, and ethnicity.

PND spoke with Coke about the foundation’s efforts to reduce the U.S. prison population, decouple the criminal justice and immigration enforcement systems, and protect a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

Headshot_tanya_cokePhilanthropy News Digest: Your work with the Legal Aid Society, the Open Society Institute, and the U.S. Human Rights Fund has given you the kind of frontline exposure to the criminal justice system that few people ever get. You've said you hope to use your platform at the Ford Foundation to help reduce the U.S. prison population by 20 percent by 2022. What makes you believe that goal is achievable? And what kinds of things can the foundation do over the next few years to make that goal a reality?

Tanya Coke: When I began researching criminal justice issues in the late 1980s, politicians from both parties were falling over themselves to out-tough the other on crime. It is widely believed that Michael Dukakis lost the 1988 election over a flubbed debate answer over whether he would consider the death penalty if his wife were raped. It would have been hard to imagine back then that presidential candidates in 2020 would be competing to see who has the most progressive criminal justice reform platform.

That gives me hope and makes me believe we can make significant progress in taming the beast that is mass incarceration in America. Bipartisan momentum for reform is happening because of a confluence of several factors: low crime rates, tight state budgets, and a much greater understanding of how mass incarceration has decimated families and communities and made us all less safe. It is not a window that will remain open forever, however, so while it is open we have to work harder and more effectively to change not just minds about what we're doing but also hearts. That requires narrative change. It requires smart policy advocacy. And it requires more organizing in communities that are most impacted by mass incarceration.

The other thing that makes me feel optimistic is that we have seen prison populations in states like California, New York, and New Jersey drop by more than 30 percent in recent years, and in the past two years we've seen incarceration rates drop by more than 10 percent in very conservative states like Louisiana and Oklahoma. That gives me confidence we can achieve significant reductions in the incarceration rate in other states as well.

But it's not enough to focus on state prison populations. We also have to look at what’s happening in local jails, where people typically serve sentences of less than a year. While state prison populations are coming down, jail populations in many places are rising. To address the situation, we've been focusing on bail reform. Bail needlessly leads to the incarceration of people who shouldn’t be in jail, particularly poor people who don't have the wherewithal to pay cash bail. We're seeing growing awareness of that fact and momentum building across the country to do something about it. Another example is our work to effect broader change in the usual narratives about crime and criminal justice. That work takes the form of support for journalism projects, partnerships with Hollywood, and efforts to leverage other kinds of storytelling platforms, with a focus on trying to re-humanize people who are in the system and imagining a different approach to public safety.

PND: Many people have come to see the criminal justice system in the U.S. as an institutional manifestation of white supremacy. Is that an accurate characterization? And where are we as a society in terms of identifying and dismantling structural barriers to real racial equity and justice?

TC: That is the real work. There is no question that mass incarceration is driven by structural racism. To some degree it was set off by rising crime rates in the 1980s, but more than anything it has been powered by racial fear and a deep-seated instinct toward racial control of surplus labor. In my opinion, mass incarceration would not have been possible during the era of slavery because black bodies were too valuable as property in the South to let them sit idle in jail. Mass incarceration also was not possible in the 1940s or 1950s, the heyday of American manufacturing, again because black labor was needed to keep the auto factories and steel mills humming. But mass incarceration does become possible in the 1980s, after many of those manufacturing jobs had been shipped overseas and, suddenly, lots of people in black communities were forced into the underground economy of drug selling, which in turn led to a heightened, racialized fear of crime. Mass incarceration was a response not only to the advances of the civil rights movement, but also to the hollowing out of industries that employed blacks, and the racial fears that both spawned. In general, police are not comfortable with idle black men on street corners, and that fact accelerated the instinct to warehouse them in prison.

You have only to look at the difference in per capita incarceration rates in heavily black states like Louisiana, where eight hundred people per hundred thousand are incarcerated, and a homogeneous, largely white state like Vermont, where the rate is three hundred people per hundred thousand. Vermont is a state heavily affected by the opioid abuse epidemic, and yet it has made the choice not to incarcerate drug users or sellers at anything like the rate that prevails in states with large black populations such as Louisiana or Mississippi. Vermont is more inclined to treat opiod abuse as a public health problem.

In general, I think our field has not thought enough about the relationship between criminal justice, the control of labor, and the many ways in which black people in the United States have, in effect, become surplus labor. This has implications for social control as well as the rise of corporate interests that are profiting from mass incarceration. It's an under-studied area, and one where we need more research and advocacy to ensure that vulnerable people are reintegrated in a meaningful way into the economy.

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Giving Voice to Your Supporters

June 03, 2019

Giving_voiceIn their desire to give voice to the vulnerable and underserved in society, most cause-driven organizations fail to include their supporters in the equation. By failing to do so, they are denying others a golden opportunity to see themselves in the same light.

A few years ago, an agency for pregnant women/healthy newborns came to us for help with a fundraising campaign. The agency's volunteers visit pregnant women in their homes to teach them about prenatal care and how to take care of a newborn. The agency's typical supporter is someone who wants to give babies a healthy, safe start in life.

At the same time, the agency was committed to a program focused on fathers-to-be. Nowhere in the program materials was there recognition or an acknowledgment of how invested the agency's volunteers were in giving babies a healthy, safe start in life or, indeed, any mention of the volunteers who were lending their time and experience to reassure and help pregnant women who often have no one they can turn to for help.

Not surprisingly, the overall campaign was not as successful as it could have been. Potential supporters who might have seen themselves as "people who think every baby deserves a chance at a healthy beginning" instead heard "we are an organization that wants to help men be good fathers." Both sentiments are laudable, but only one truly resonated with the agency’s most important constituency.

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